How to Know if a Debt Collector is Legitimate
In today’s world, we are bombarded with phone calls ranging from asking for our opinions on current events to charities soliciting for time or money. There may also be calls from debt collectors, asking you for personal or financial information.
If this should happen to you, be extremely cautious of giving out such sensitive information. A debt collector could be a scam artist that is attempting to get this sensitive information from you, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau explains.
Here are some signs that a would-be debt collector is not legitimate and what you can do to protect your personal and financial information.
First, you should ask for the caller’s name, the company for which they work, who they are attempting to collect the debt for, their phone number, and a professional license number, if your state licenses debt collectors. You can check the information provided with your state Attorney General.
You can refuse to discuss any debt until you receive a written validation notice from the company. All debt collectors must follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
A legitimate debt collector will not threaten you with criminal charges for not providing them the information that they are requesting. You do have the right to ask the debt collector about the debt and you can even state that you don’t believe you owe the debt.
Debt collectors by law must stop contacting you if you ask them in writing. If you have done so and you receive a call from that same collector, it could be a red flag as a possible scam.
Be advised though by requesting a debt collector to stop calling you does not make the debt go away and it does not stop the collector from reporting the debt to credit reporting agencies or suing you.
You should also keep a copy of the letter you sent for your records, should you need to show it at some point. Before paying for the debt, you should request a written statement as well. If the debt collector refuses to give you their mailing address or phone number when you request that information, this could be cause for alarm.
If the caller does provide you with the information, confirm it with your state Attorney General to validate that it is legitimate before you provide any personal or financial information.
The best way to protect yourself from a possible scam is to never give the caller your personal, financial, or other sensitive information. In addition, you should never confirm sensitive or financial information such as your Social Security number, credit card information, or your bank account numbers, unless you know the company or person you are dealing with is a legitimate debt collector.
Scam artists will often take this information that you provided to commit identity theft. Some examples of identity theft that they can commit in your name are charging your existing credit cards, opening new credit cards or checking accounts, writing fraudulent checks, or taking out loans in your name.
Related: Learn About Common Financial Scams
What can you do if the debt is real, but you are suspicious that the collector is not? Contact the creditor using the information on the back of your credit card or loan statement. Share with them the experience dealing with the potential debt collector to see if the creditor has authorized them to collect on their behalf.
If you suspect that someone is attempting to get money or personally identifiable information from you, taking these steps will help safeguard your sensitive information and help maintain security on your accounts.
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